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Meet the new Malalas

On Malala Day we celebrate one awe-inspiring young woman's triumph over adversity. Malala’s strength and commitment to her education made her a global icon for gender equality and girls' rights. 

Malala Yousufzai
Malala Yousufzai at her Nobel Peace Prize celebrations in 2015.

It follows that the world's youngest Nobel Prize winner is currently busy getting her degree from Oxford University - making this a perfect time to introduce the new class of girls’ rights activists. 

These girls are fighting discrimination and inequality around the globe in all its forms. They are making an impact on the lives of girls in their communities. They are supporting other girls and young women to dream bigger than tradition and culture have previously allowed them to dare. 

These young activists are empowering girls to reach their full potential and inspiring them to take the lead in their own lives. Just like Malala.

Fatuma - helped secure $2.9bn in girls’ education funding!

Fatuma wants all girls to have quality education and an opportunity to reach their own potential.
Fatuma wants all girls to have access to quality education and an opportunity to reach their own potential.

Fatuma fled civil war in Somalia with her family at a young age. She spent much of her childhood and adolescence in the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya. 

Going to school gave her hope for a better future and she earned a scholarship to one of Kenya’s top schools. Today she studies Health Science at the University of Toronto while supporting her family who still live in the camp. 

Fatuma is a committed girls’ rights campaigner. She recently started a petition that gained an astounding 168,000 signatures imploring Canada’s Prime Minister to make girls education a priority at the G7 and not leave girls in crisis behind. 

The petition, along with pressure from other equality and education activists and stakeholders, helped secure a commitment of $2.9bn for girls’ education. More than double what was initially requested. 

Malala even tweeted her delight at the news. 

 

Emma Gonzalez - activist, public speaker and gun control advocate

This 18-year-old from Florida has become a household name as an activist in the wake of one of this year’s most devastating high-school shootings in the USA. 

Since the ordeal, Emma has become a vocal and impassioned campaigner for stricter gun control laws. She delivered a powerful and moving speech at the March for our Lives rally in Washington the month after the tragedy and continues to prove what a powerful force girls and young women can be when they’re empowered to fight for their rights. 

Erika - breaking down barriers for indigenous girls 

Erika, a young indigenous girl, is the brightest student in her school.
Erika is committed to breaking down barriers faced by indigenous girls.

Erika’s ambition is to break down barriers faced by indigenous girls and women in Ecuador and beyond. The 18-year-old leads the Fighting for our Dreams programme which raises awareness of the causes and consequences of teenage pregnancy and how the high rates among rural, indigenous communities can limit girls’ potential. 

Erika has come a long way since the days she would have to run for an hour to get to school because her family couldn’t afford the bus - she has just been awarded a university scholarship. She has even met with the First Lady of the Republic of Ecuador to discuss girls’ rights and gender-based violence. 

Erika believes that in order to truly transform realities for indigenous girls and women, “we need to change cultural patterns, attitudes and behaviours.” Inspirational. 

Sonita Alizadeh - Afghani rapper and anti-child marriage campaigner

21-year Sonita Alizadeh is an Afghan rapper and activist who has been vocal against child, early and forced marriage since her mother tried to sell her for £6,000 when she was sixteen. 

Later she became an undocumented refugee in Iran, which is where she first recorded her music videos, despite this defying Iranian law. Her songs have included ‘Child Labour’ and ‘Brides for Sale’ - the latter of which went viral. 

This led the self-described ‘raptivist’ to become the focus of an award-winning documentary ‘Sonita’ and secure a visa to study in the US. She has just started her university degree and dreams of practising law back in Afghanistan one day. 

Chamathya - fighting gender-based violence in Sri Lanka 

Chamathya is a girls' rights activist with a focus on ending gender-based violence.
Chamathya is a girls' rights activist with a focus on ending gender-based violence.

Chamathya, 24, was recently recognised by the US State Department as one of the top 10 Global Emerging Young Leaders for her tireless work raising awareness and campaigning against gender-based violence in Sri Lanka. She has run many successful anti-GBV campaigns including Stop the Violence. 

She is well known in her home country for the strides she is making in her activism and was recently given the title of “the global anti-GBV crusader” by Sri Lankan publication, Nation.

Chamathya says, “I want to see a world free from violence, discrimination and harassment of girls and women,” and wants to see all forms of GBV eliminated all over the world.

Sophie - sexual health and rights campaigner

Sophie is a committed campaigner for sexual and reproductive health and rights for girls and women in Uganda.

Sophie saw several of her friends drop out of school due to teenage pregnancy. Some also contracted HIV. These tragic circumstances led her to become a passionate advocate for the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for girls and young women in Uganda and beyond. 

The 24-year-old recently led a government petition to increase the budget for SRHR services for young people in Uganda, which gained support from 39,000 people around the world. 

Whilst completing a masters degree and continuing her role as a committed Sunday school teacher, she also somehow finds time to counsel teen-mothers who have dropped out of school and teach them jewellery-making and other skills that can help them become entrepreneurs.  

Sophie’s ambition is to create a world where everyone is healthy, wealthy and empowered. She believes this will happen when girls are given an opportunity to decide and have control over their lives and bodies.

Aneeka - making cities safer for girls and women

Aneeka is committed to making cities safe and inclusive for girls and women.

Aneeka is a dedicated youth activist for gender equality who wants cities to be safer and more inclusive for girls and women. The 23-year-old recently helped develop an app with Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia, that enables girls and women to discreetly report sexual harassment and assault, as well as mark ‘unsafe’ or ‘safe’ spots around the city.

Her ambition is to achieve a world in which everyone has access to services and opportunities to meet their basic human rights, and a world were girls and women can thrive in their communities and be who they are without judgement. 

Learn more about our support for young activists